Authors: Mitch Winehouse
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #music, #Personal Memoirs, #Composers & Musicians, #Individual Composer & Musician
Raye called me and brought me up to speed with how Amy and Tyler were. Since they'd known each other, they'd been like two peas in a pod. I'd always thought that was a good thing but maybe now it wasn't.
I flew out to St Lucia towards the end of April 2009, with Jazz and Richard, who were with me to film there. I bumped into Tyler, who was flying home. He was gaunt and pale, and it was clear the drinking had taken its toll. He was still a good-looking guy but I was worried by his appearance and told him so. When I arrived at the villa, Amy was pleased to see me, but tipsy. As the day wore on she got increasingly drunk. I didn't see her drinking so assumed she had a secret supply.
Every time she drank she seemed to get herself into trouble. At the resort, she was rude to a British couple, who had asked her to pose with them for a photo on the beach. I didn't want to be around her that evening because I was depressed. It was evident to me that she had swapped one addiction for another. Instead I spent the evening with Andrew, Anthony and Neville, the security boys, who were all on St Lucia with Amy, to discuss her drink problem. They told me that there was very little they could do to stop her drinking but assured me they were always watching her back and had pulled her out of several nasty situations.
The following week Amy was due to perform at the St Lucia Festival. When I returned to London, I saw Raye and told him I doubted that Amy would be up to appearing. Raye, who was going to St Lucia, said he would take a view when he got there and pull the gig if he had to.
As it turned out, Amy was sober for the open-air Festival gig, but there were other problems, which, for once, went beyond drugs and alcohol. For one thing, there was torrential rain so there were technical issues. Beyond that, though, Amy sang four songs, then said she'd had enough â she was bored singing the same old songs.
I was a bit surprised to hear that, but as I listened to her, I got the sense that there was slightly more to it. As I've said, Amy wasn't the most confident of performers and if something went wrong, like her forgetting a lyric, her confidence would be blown for the rest of the show. According to Raye, that was exactly what happened. Amy forgot the words to one of her songs, stopped singing and the band started the song again, which threw her. Then the heavens opened and Raye was on the stage mopping up rainwater. He was worried about it â that's how people get electrocuted onstage. He told Amy to come off and she did, as good as gold, no problem at all. In fact, after her stumble with the lyric, I think she was relieved.
She sounded fine when I spoke to her later that day. âI've haven't had a drink for two days now, Dad. Aren't you proud of me?'
I told her I was. Then she said she was happy that Blake was divorcing her. âI want to meet someone else, Dad. I want to fall in love again, I want to get married again, and I want to have babies, Dad â lots of 'em.'
âThat's lovely, darling. What about your music?'
I liked her fantasy but at that moment that was exactly what it was. I knew she wasn't over Blake, not yet anyway. For now, it was better to get her focused entirely on writing and singing. Everything else would surely follow.
âYeah, I want to do that as well,' she replied. âI want to sing some new stuff.'
Raye had proposed a Brazilian tour, but after the Festival in St Lucia, he felt it couldn't go ahead until Amy had some new songs to sing: the
Back to Black
songs, apart from âRehab', were still bringing her down. When I told Raye what Amy had said about the divorce, and suggested that at last she was over Blake, he was surprised. His impression was that nothing had changed on that score. As always seemed to be the case, her mental state changed from day to day â it all depended on which day you happened to be talking to her.
While we all had conflicting impressions of what Amy could handle, she continued to do well on St Lucia and the reports from her security team were encouraging. Although she was still drinking, it wasn't every day, and when she did drink, she wasn't getting drunk. The papers were still running pieces about it, but it was useless to tell them she wasn't drinking as much as she had been.
Interestingly, she started spending a lot of time in the gym, and I think all that exercise was incredibly helpful. When we spoke, she'd reiterate that she never wanted to see Blake again and that, of course, was what I wanted to hear. Some friends of hers were due to join her for a short stay. While they were there, Amy told me she'd had a great time with them, had cut down on her drinking and felt a lot better for it. Meanwhile, the Subutex was doing its job: there were no signs of withdrawal.
One night she called me up and said, âDad, I want you to know, I'll never take drugs again.'
I'll be honest: when I went up to bed that night, I had a little cry. At last, I thought. And the best part was this time she had been telling the truth.
I flew back to St Lucia on 26 June and Amy met me at the airport. As we arrived at the villa, she took my hand and led me to the beach. âCome with me, Dad,' she said. âSomebody needs our help. I hope you've brought plenty of money with you.'
As there were various bills to pay on St Lucia, I'd brought eight thousand dollars in cash. Amy walked me down the beach until we came upon an elderly man called Julian Jean-Baptiste, who was sitting under the shade of a small tree. He looked to me like he was dying. âGeorge needs our help, Dad,' Amy said â she called him George, I don't know why.
Amy had caught me by surprise and I didn't know quite what to say, so I decided to start at the beginning. âHi, George, what's the problem?'
âI'm in agony,' he told me. âMy hernia's ruptured.' As a result, he literally couldn't move, but this was only the start of the problems. His family couldn't afford to pay for medical care and it was almost like he had been left to die on the beach. I could see a huge lump in George's stomach and his pain was written on his face. He was a pitiful sight.
âGeorge,' Amy said, helping him to his feet, âwe're going to get you to a hospital straight away.'
George couldn't walk, so our security boys carried him to our car and we drove him to Tapion hospital. All the way there George moaned with pain and Amy stroked his head and told him he was going to be okay.
We got to the hospital, the same one Amy had been in when she'd had a seizure a few weeks earlier. She made sure he got the best possible treatment and instructed the doctor that he was not to be let out of hospital until he was completely better, then explained that we would be footing the bill. I asked the doctor how much it was going to cost and he told me that the operation and aftercare would come to about five thousand dollars. I paid the hospital, said goodbye to George and we drove back to the villa.
There, Amy asked me to go with her to see another guy on the beach. âIf this guy's got a ruptured hernia, he's out of luck,' I told her. âI've only got three thousand left.'
He wasn't sick: he owned seven horses, which he rented to tourists to ride up and down the beach. Amy told me that she owed him some money. I introduced myself and asked how much Amy owed him. To my disbelief, the answer was fifteen thousand dollars. Amy had discovered that the local St Lucian kids, who regularly played on the beach, couldn't afford to rent horses from the man so she'd rented all of his horses, seven days a week, from dawn to dusk for a month, and let the kids ride for free, telling him, âMy dad'll pay you when he next comes over.'
I told the man I had just three thousand dollars. âThat'll do!' he said.
I'd only been on St Lucia for about four hours and the eight thousand dollars was gone. But, it was worth every penny: Amy was so happy that we could help those people.
We had a lovely supper together, just the two of us. Amy had started to put some weight back on and she was looking very well. My only concern was that she drank a lot that evening, and while she wasn't drunk, when we said goodnight she was well on the way.
A couple of days later I flew home. Shortly after I'd got back, Raye and I went to a preliminary hearing of Amy's Prince's Trust Ball common-assault charge. The prosecution's case seemed weak, but our concern was more about Amy's volatility. After the hearing, our barrister told me that when Amy was in court she had to be respectful or the judge might find against her. When I told Amy what he had said, she replied, âDon't worry, Dad. I'll show respect and behave myself. You know I can do it if I want to.'
That made me worry more, especially because she sounded as if she had been drinking.
Amy arrived home on 13 July, and when we talked about the impending court case, it was clear she was quite nervous. All she had to do was tell the truth, be respectful and courteous, I said, and, with a bit of luck, justice would prevail.
The night before the hearing, having learned long ago that you could never get Amy anywhere on time, I arranged for Amy and me to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Buckingham Gate, central London, to ensure we wouldn't be late the following day at nearby Westminster Magistrates' Court. Despite all of my planning, we were still late.
Amy was quite nervous as the court heard burlesque dancer Sherene Flash claim that Amy had hit her forcefully in the right eye after she had asked for a photograph while backstage at the Prince's Trust ball. Amy told the court that she had felt intimidated and scared by Flash when she leaned over and put her arm around her and denied punching her in the face. Amy said, âI pushed her up, like away. I wanted her away from me. It was more like an indication of “Leave me alone, I'm scared of you.” I meant to just get her away from me. I was scared. I thought, people are mad these days, people are just rude and mad, or people can't handle their drink. I didn't know what she was doing. She lunged at me and put her arm around me. She was just drunk. I think it was just intimidating. Suddenly out of nowhere she's got her arm round me, her face next to mine, and there's a camera in front of me. I think she was being overly friendly but that was intimidating. I was scared. I'm not Mickey Mouse, I'm a human being.'
The next day Amy was found not guilty and, delivering his verdict, District Judge Timothy Workman said, âHaving heard the evidence from all the witnesses, I cannot be sure that this was not an accident. The charge is dismissed and the defendant discharged.'
As this was all unfolding, there was the usual deluge of stories about Amy in the press. On 19 July the
News of the World
published a story saying Blake wanted Â£6 million in the divorce settlement. The
followed up by publishing a two-part story by Blake. In the first part it was just the usual stuff: how Blake saved Amy's life â nothing new, just Blake bigging himself up. However, in the second part he claimed that Amy had stolen cocaine from Kate Moss â I felt sure that Kate Moss wouldn't be happy reading that.
I went to Focus 12 again, on 22 July, and Jazz and Richard filmed me in a parents' meeting. I was beginning to learn just how difficult it was to get help for addiction if you couldn't afford to pay for it.
Jane and I went to Spain for a few days, and when we arrived back in England, in early August, Amy looked good and wasn't drinking, although I'd heard lots of stories of her getting out of control while I was away. I went to see her at Hadley Wood and found her on her exercise bike; I felt tired just watching her. She told me she hadn't been drinking for the previous few days and felt better for it. And while Blake had been calling her a lot, she hadn't spoken to him. I immediately called Brian Spiro and asked him to write to Blake's solicitor and get him to stop Blake calling Amy. This stage of her recovery was nothing if not fragile, and if one thing seemed certain to derail it, it was Blake.
Blake stayed in the picture, continuously trying to contact Amy and even getting her to agree to meet him at the Hawley Arms in Camden, where he failed to show up. In mid-August there was a story in the
News of the World
that Blake had said Amy wanted to get back with him. They ran a headline that must have taken them less than a second to come up with, âBack to Blake'. I called Amy, on some pretext, then brought up the subject of her getting back with Blake. She didn't want to talk about it and I couldn't get a straight answer. The next day, it was much the same.
âOne minute you don't want to talk to Blake,' I said to her, âand the next minute you're arranging to meet him. Just tell me what you want to do.'
She was smart and knew exactly what I was worried about. âDad, I'll never take drugs again, if that's what you're thinking,' she said, laughing.
Amy was true to her word when it came to drugs. But her drinking was still a constant worry to me. In late August, she joined the Specials on stage at the V Festival in Chelmsford, Essex, and sang a couple of songs with them. She looked and sounded great, and as far as I could tell, there was no drink on the stage. After the show Amy said she had enjoyed herself and stayed sober throughout.
The following Monday, I met American Blake, who had been with Amy at the V Festival. Apparently one of her former drug-dealers had spoken to her there but, true to her word, she hadn't done any business with him. I told him that didn't surprise me but wondered whether Amy had been drinking over that weekend. He said she hadn't touched a drop before her performance, but afterwards she'd âhad a skinful', as he put it.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Amy knew that I had sung semi-professionally throughout my twenties. After I got married, and the kids came along, I did fewer and fewer gigs. But I always intended to go back to it and Amy was always encouraging me to do it. She said a number of times that I should make an album. So when Tony Hiller, a hugely successful songwriter and producer, approached me with the same idea, Amy said, âGo for it, Dad.' Her input was invaluable to me on all aspects of my singing. In the same way that my mum had been Amy's biggest fan, it seemed to me that Amy was
She and I went together to Tony's flat one hot summer's evening to discuss the album and Amy spotted a shelf full of Ivor Novello awards.
âHow many have you got, Tony?' she asked. Six, he said. âAaah, I've only got three.' Amy was never one to boast, but she was always proud of her Ivor Novello awards.
When we'd finished, I took her to Reubens kosher restaurant where I ate a lot, as usual, and so did she, which pleased me. We talked briefly about her divorce, which was due to become absolute on 28 August, but when I saw she was getting upset I changed the subject. She was distracted, though, and I could see she wasn't really listening to me.
âDad,' she interrupted. âBlake rang today and wanted me to meet him in a hotel room. I didn't go,' she added hurriedly, as she saw my expression darken, âbecause I didn't like something about the phone call. It didn't sound right to me, a set-up or something, and I told him I weren't going.'
I had to ask her: âWhat made you smell a rat?'
âI don't know, Dad,' she said. I reckoned she did, but she wasn't going to tell me. While I was pleased that she had not only declined to meet Blake but told me about it, I was certain she still harboured strong feelings for him.
I was right.
When Blake had been released from prison, it had been under a licence that was conditional on him not leaving Sheffield. But he had been coming to London often to see his new girlfriend. Amy was unaware of this, until eventually Blake told her what he'd been doing. I suspect this was only because the newspapers had got hold of the story and he wanted to tell her before she read about it.
Around this time my friend Dr Phil Rich, a clinical psychologist and behavioural therapist who also deals with alcohol-dependent patients, was over from America on holiday. On 8 September I was with him when I got a call from Andrew. He told me that Blake was at the house in Hadley Wood. Phil and I jumped into my taxi and drove straight over.
We arrived at around ten thirty a.m. Amy was in the kitchen wearing just a T-shirt and a pair of knickers. The security guys were used to her walking around like this and took no notice of it, but Amy was shocked to see me and started shouting, âOh, no, oh, no â¦'
âWhere is he? Where's Blake?' I asked.
âNo, Dad, no, Dad,' she kept shouting.
âHe's upstairs in bed,' Andrew told me.
As I was climbing the stairs, Amy grabbed one of my legs and I ended up dragging her with me as she kept shouting, âNo, Dad, no, Dad â¦ Don't hit him, Dad.'
I managed to get upstairs, with Amy in tow, and sure enough, there he was, lying in Amy's bed. I got hold of him and said, âGet out of bed and fuck off!'
Behind me, I heard Amy still shouting, âNo, Dad, no, Dad, no, Dad.'
Blake got up. âAmy doesn't want me to go.'
âI don't care what Amy wants.
' I yelled.
Amy was still shouting, and I told her it had nothing to do with her. I actually wanted Blake to hit me so that I could legitimately lay into him. I tried to provoke him: âYou and your family are scum,' I said, thinking that surely he'd hit me if I said that.
But he didn't. I have to hand it to him: he was as cool as a cucumber. I don't know if drugs had made him that way, but in any event, he fronted me out.
Instead he said, âCan I have a shower?'
âNo,' I said. âJust get out now, because if you don't there's going to be trouble.'
I stood there while he got dressed, with Amy still shouting at me. He went downstairs, followed by Amy and me, and as he opened the front door, where there was a step leading down to the porch, he turned. âHow am I going to get to the station?'
,' I said.
âBut it's a mile away.'
Then he had the cheek to turn to Andrew and ask him, âCan you give me a lift to the station, mate?'
With that, I gave him a lift all right: I kicked him right up the backside, as hard as I could, and he fell over the step. Amy wanted to go to him but I stopped her and slammed the door.
It was a hell of scene, but it didn't take Amy long to calm down. After about ten minutes it was like nothing had happened. Amy relaxed and we had a good talk. Finally when we'd got the events out of our system, she said, âDad, let's go to the East End.'
I was still burning over what had happened and now she wanted to go to the East End! âAmy, you're really putting me through the mincer today,' I said. âI can't handle it.'
She came over and gave me a big hug. How could I refuse her after that?
âCome on,' she said. âWe'll go and see where Nan and Pop Alec grew up and all that.'